Posts Tagged ‘Self’

Self is an Illusion part three, 3

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Turning off default mode

 

Normal consciousness relies, at least in part, on the brain’s Default Mode Network (DMN), according to neuroscientist Robin Carhart-Harris, head of psychedelic research in the brain sciences division of the Imperial College of London medical school.

 

 

The DMN is a network of interacting brain regions that acts as a cognitive transit hub, integrating and assimilating information. As the name implies, it’s the usual system of organization for your mind. Carhart-Harris says the DMN “gives coherence to cognition” by connecting different regions of the brain, and is considered the “orchestrator of the self.”

 

 

Carhart-Harris and his colleagues found what seems to be an important function of the DMN inadvertently.

 

 

While studying brain networks, they got curious about what changes might occur when people are under the effects of hallucinogens.

 

 

In studies analyzing the effects of psilocybin on brain wave oscillation and blood flow, they found that when the DMN was inactive, an alternate network of consciousness seemed to arise.

 

 

When some study subjects tested psilocybin, they reported a strong sense of interconnectedness, as well as spiritual, magical, and supernatural feelings.

 

 

 

In the alternate mode, brains produced a different world that offered other sensations and realizations than in everyday life. In this mode, the self wasn’t the protagonist of the narrative.

 

 

Meanwhile, scans of blood flow and brain wave oscillations showed new, unusual—but orderly and synchronous—connections forming between cortical regions, as if the brain was reorganizing its network.

 

 

This led Carhart-Harris to posit that the DMN generates the feeling we each have that we’re individuals, a feeling that manifests very strongly as reality.

 

 

 

And that means we can temporarily switch off, or mute, this part of the brain.

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Part two of five: BRAIN PRANK Scientists studying psychoactive drugs accidentally proved the self is an illusion: February 09, 2018

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Our awareness of existence—the ability to distinguish between the self and others—is created by the brain, neuroscientist Anil Seth explains in his TED talk, “Your brain hallucinates consciousness.” He says, “Right now, billions of neurons in your brain are working together to generate a conscious experience—and not just any conscious experience, your experience of the world around you and of yourself within it.”

 

Yet when you are unconscious, you continue to exist without perceiving your own presence. You cease to participate in reality but continue to live. When roused back into consciousness, you lack a narrative to explain the time away. The narrative of the story that seems to be your life is just a function of your brain’s mechanisms, not who you really are.

 

Still, the hallucination of consciousness is one we’re all having in tandem. When we agree about our hallucinations, we call it “reality,” according to Seth. In this agreed-upon reality, we are each separate individuals, whose stories begin with our births and end with our deaths.
But there are other ways to experience reality, which you may have already glimpsed, even if only fleetingly. Sometimes our consciousness shifts. The boundaries of the self seem to become less rigid and we commune with another person or thing, as can happen during drug-induced epiphanies, sure—but can also happen when people fall in love, meditate, go out in nature, or experience a great meeting of minds.

 

In The Book (pdf), philosopher Alan Watts writes that we aren’t individuals existing in lonely bodies. We’re a flowing segment in the continuous line of life. He and others—mystics, monks, poets (pdf), and philosophers from numerous traditions—argue that people are sad and hostile because we live with a false sense of separation from one another and the rest of the world. “This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences,” Watts wrote in The Book. “We do not ‘come into’ this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree.”

 

Seeing the interconnectedness and timelessness of existence provides a grand scale. It helps put your problems in perspective. That’s why scientists are trying to find ways to trigger the epiphany Watts talks about. Drugs can help, especially since we think we now know how the brain generates the illusion of self.

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Part one of five: BRAIN PRANK Scientists studying psychoactive drugs accidentally proved the self is an illusion: February 09, 2018

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This mushroom contains properties that can help you sense your relationship to this mushroom. (CC/Alan Rockefeller)

 

Philosophers and mystics have long contemplated the disconcerting notion that the fixed self is an illusion. Neuroscientists now think they can prove it or, at least, help us glimpse this truth with some help from psilocybin, the psychoactive property in magic mushrooms.

 

Researchers around the world are exploring the drug’s transformative power to help people quit smoking; lower violent crime; treat depression, anxiety. and post-traumatic stress disorder; and trigger lasting spiritual epiphanies in psychologically healthy people, especially when coupled with meditation or contemplative training.

 

There are some limitations to psilocybin studies—they tend to be small, and rely on volunteers willing to take drugs and, thus, open to an alternate experience. But the research could have major implications in an age characterized by widespread anxiety. Psilocybin seems to offer some people a route to an alternate view of reality, in which they shed the limitations of their individual consciousness and embrace a sense of interconnectedness and universality. These trips aren’t temporary, but have transformative psychological effects. Even if we don’t all end up on mushrooms, the studies offer insights on how we might minimize suffering and interpersonal strife and gain a sense of peace.

 

Consider a study of 75 subjects, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology last October. The study concluded that psilocybin leads to mystical experiences that can have long-term psychological benefits in conjunction with meditation training. The greater the drug dosage, the more potent the positive psychological effect was six months later. “Participants showed significant positive changes on longitudinal measures of interpersonal closeness, gratitude, life meaning/purpose, forgiveness, death transcendence, daily spiritual experiences, religious faith and coping,” the study concluded.

 

 

Meanwhile, in July, psychologist Richard Williams of John Hopkins University revealed an experiment involving clergy and psilocybin. Williams is enlisting priests, rabbis, and Zen Buddhist monks to take drugs, meditate, and “collect inner experiences.” (No Muslim or Hindu clerics agreed to participate.) The study will last a year, so no results are out yet. But Williams told The Guardian in July 2017 that so far, the clerics report feeling simultaneously more in touch with their own faith and greater appreciation for alternate paths. “In these transcendental states of consciousness, people … get to levels of consciousness that seem universal. So a good rabbi can encounter the Buddha within him,” Williams said.

 

To understand how mushrooms can change our worldviews, we must first explore how brains shape our sense of self.

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Internal Family System: The self

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The Self
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One other key aspect of the IFS Model also differentiates it from other models.

 

This is the belief that, in addition to these parts, everyone is at their core a Self containing many crucial leadership qualities such as perspective, confidence, compassion, and acceptance.

 

Working with hundreds of clients for more than two decades, some of whom were severely abused and show severe symptoms, has convinced me that everyone has this healthy and healing Self despite the fact that many people initially have very little access to it.

 

When working with an individual, the goal of IFS is to differentiate this Self from the parts, thereby releasing its resources.

 

When the individual is in the state of Self, we can work together to help the parts out of their extreme roles.
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Sense of Self”: … .. Donald Altman. “The Mindfulness Code.”

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“Whether you call it the ego (as Freud did), the pain body (as Eckhart Tolle does), or the self (as Buddhists continue to), there is a part of human awareness whose job it is to create a sense of self that is distinct and separate from others.
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The human brain, after all, is designed to construct an identity.
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Various areas of the brain are implicated in this capacity to create a solid self.
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The brain’s left hemisphere is especially good at this making mental road maps and cobbling together stories about our lives.
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It does the heavy lifting in supporting the concept of self, or I, with which we strongly identify.
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Harvard-trained neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor describes the direct experience of losing this individuated self because of a hemorrhage in her brain’s left hemisphere in her book My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey.
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The experience helped her understand what happens when the left brain’s divisive, me-first sense of I stops totally dominating one’s reality.
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According to Taylor, left-brain dominance produces “extremely rigid thinking patterns that are analytically critical (extreme left brain).
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